Bernie Sanders’ campaign for the presidency is starting to wind down, but the impacts of his incredible run will be felt for years to come in the Democratic Party, progressive politics and the American electoral system. Around this time last year the early hints of a highly successful insurgent campaign were on clear display in Iowa, as he repeatedly drew surprisingly large crowds at his early events. Now he’s focused on party reforms and issue planks in Philadelphia, and his movement looks to live on far beyond the convention.

Starting Line reached out to a number of Bernie Sanders supporters in Iowa to get their thoughts on what they hope Sanders’ legacy will be:


Bri Steirer, recent Drake University student

Senator Bernie Sanders has had my undying support since even before he announced his candidacy on May 26th, 2015. However, even I could have never envisioned the magnitude of influence that his candidacy had and will continue to have on the Democratic Party and American politics as a whole.

Until Senator Sanders started taking the stage in front of record-breaking crowds, “socialism” was a word reserved for dark rooms and whispered voices. No one, especially someone seeking the highest office in the United States of America, would dare cuddle up to the likes of Fidel Castro or declare an all-out war on Wall Street.

Perhaps this is why the media counted him out so early, calling him a lunatic—a fringe candidate. They counted him out, but then people started listening. They recognized their own struggles in his words and found hope in his promises. The legacy of Senator Sanders lies not in his so-called “divisiveness” within the Democratic Party, but rather his ability to bring together the very people who have been dismissed by their own political system. Suddenly, his appeals to democratic socialism were not taboo, but rejoiced. The people saw a leader who they could finally consider a public servant in the truest sense.

Moving forward, his impact will not be ignored. Prior to his candidacy, much of the American electorate was complacent with the way our elections were run—not anymore. He has forced to the forefront the influence of big money, the systemic issues within establishment party politics, and he has set a precedent for future campaigns to not answer to paychecks, but rather to people. He has mobilized a large voting bloc of individuals that are bearing the weight of this economy in which we live- young people, the working class, seniors—and if the Democratic Party wishes to continue this awakening, they must stop, listen, and respond adequately to their demands, just as Senator Sanders did throughout his candidacy and will continue to do in the United States Senate.

Sanders at an early campaign stop in Cedar County, July 2015
Sanders at an early campaign stop in Cedar County


Adam Kofoed, regional field director for Sanders’ caucus campaign, Linn, Jones, Cedar, and Muscatine County

For years, I have waited for Generation Y and Z to join me and several of my peers by getting involved in local politics. The younger generations are finally motivated by a candidate who speaks about the issues greatly effecting their future.

But getting involved in local issues can be a bumpy road. When my fire was first ignited, a local young candidate named Liz Bennett assertively recruited me and many of her key activists, and legislative friends still look out for me today. Jasper County Democrats welcomed one of my friends by electing him as chair of their party. But not all paths are equal.

Many of my peers have been subjected to less than favorable circumstances from local parties and campaigns. I have been heavily involved in organizing our youth for several years. I asked multiple county chairs, local candidates, and committee members to freely attend and recruit them. But most of my peers have heard crickets or felt unwelcomed.

Instead of actively recruiting candidates to challenge younger candidates, the party should start empowering them. I have personally seen this multiple times and it sends a strong unwelcoming message to my peers.

I want to see local parties with young leadership quotas and donor groups like the Linn County Phoenix Club have young membership rates to encourage long term involvement from my generation. If Bernie does not form an organization and if leadership does not seek my peers, their talent will go elsewhere.  I’m hoping Bernie’s impact in Iowa will bridge the generational gap by encouraging older political leaders, local campaigns, and candidates to actively recruit and welcome our newly inspired generation.”

Sanders and wife Jane walk in the Waukee 4th of July parade
Sanders and wife Jane walk in the Waukee 4th of July parade


Brenda Brink, Sanders volunteer and delegate from Huxley

My background is as a lifelong Iowa Democrat, a late­blooming activist and a Bernie supporter. His supporters are dedicated to ensuring that the Political Revolution Bernie fostered will continue. The issues he has elevated are not being addressed and must be: wage inequality largely based on wealthy Americans and corporations not paying their fair share, environmental injustice from corporate lobbyists and deep­-pocket campaign funding, and the lack of hope for young Americans and Dreamers with stifling college debt and lack of good jobs.

The thousands and thousands of people who are energized by Bernie’s honest passion to make Wall Street, Big Pharma and politicians work for the Common Good have woken up, whether Bernie is the candidate or not. He reminded us that we don’t have to settle for crumbs but can join the rest of the civilized world. Single­payer health care, free college and an economy that works for all of us are not pie in the sky ideas, but the way forward.

Status quo politics is burying our country, but with social justice organizing, we can continue to push for progress in a bold way. It was when Bernie Sanders came to Iowa Citizens for Community Improvement, before announcing his candidacy, that we knew he was authentic. His message has not changed and his method has not. We are doing this together. Currently his supporters are working on all Democratic party caucuses and committees to make an impact. By staying involved, united and organized, the Political Revolution Bernie ignited will change politics as usual, right here in Iowa.

Sanders walks a picket line in Cedar Rapids, August 2015
Sanders walks a picket line in Cedar Rapids, August 2015


Cody Woodruff, recent Carlisle HS student, incoming ISU freshman

“Senator Sanders (I-VT), a self-described socialist, is considered a long shot for the Democratic nomination.” Countless journalists wrote something similar to that phrase when Bernie Sanders announced his candidacy over a year ago, but very few people expected him to have the impact that he did.

Bernie has inspired millions of Americans, particularly young Americans, to vote and actively participate in an election that they may have otherwise ignored. He’s become an icon of the left and replaced Elizabeth Warren as the leader of the progressive movement. His influence on this election has not only pulled Clinton to the left, but an entire generation. Perhaps Bernie’s “political revolution” is an antidote to the Tea Party, because he’s offered hope to millions who’ve become discouraged by “establishment” politics. He has a powerful voice now, and I hope he uses it to continue fighting for progressive causes and defeating Donald Trump. Democrats will need his ability to energize voters, and hopefully his passionate supporters will follow his lead even though he’s not the nominee.

Despite speculation that this is the year for a third-party candidate, I think Bernie’s rise is evidence of the stranglehold that Democrats and Republicans have on our electoral system. He knew he couldn’t run as an independent, and he ran as a Democrat to be a viable candidate. In doing so, he exposed wide rifts between moderate Democrats and more liberal Democrats, and that’s something our party will have to deal with. We do not want to become as fractured as the Republicans, but unifying may be difficult.

Bernie’s candidacy showed you don’t need Super PACs to run for President, and a grassroots movement can translate into large support and populism. It will also be interesting to see if the taboo on “socialism” will change in any way. Maybe the Cold War-era fear around the word will disappear over time.

My hope is that Bernie will be remembered as a symbol of hope and a principled leader who has always stood up for what he believes in. He’s fought for the American people countless times, and we need more politicians like him to carry on the fight.

Sanders with a parrot in Des Moines, September 2015
Sanders with a parrot in Des Moines, September 2015


Monica McCarthy, Democratic activist in Des Moines

Bernie Sanders’ legacy should be a more progressive agenda to promote the Democratic Party. Look to his thoughts on religion. It is about US – everybody as a collective.

As a society in this progressive world, we must take care of those that can not take care of themselves:  the young, elderly, sick & disabled.

Societal care should never be “for profit.” We need to support workers that choose to work in these professions. Give credit for advancing education & professional training. Tax incentives are due to those that care for family/partners/friends at home. When home care is no longer possible, there needs to be good, safe alternatives.

Government role is over-sight & inspection. Enforce strong standards. Eliminate those that do not perform duties to maintain quality of life.

Democrats must continue to support & promote expansion of current programs. As an example, “Life Long Links” is a service to help achieve quality of life through the Area Agencies on Aging. The goal is to keep those in need of care to remain in their home as long as they can, yet have the proper care needed.   See for more info.

Sanders in Burlington, Iowa, August 2015
Sanders in Burlington, Iowa, August 2015


by Pat Rynard
Posted 6/17/16

5 thoughts on “What Will Bernie Sanders’ Legacy Be? Iowa Supporters Weigh In

  1. Bernie Sanders was never a Democrat. Repeatedly he stated he was never a Democrat. His legacy is that he irreparably fractured the Democratic Party and will cost the Democratic Party elections at all levels for decades to come. I was a life-long Democrat and voted for all Democratic candidates for 60 years. Now I must rethink being a Democrat, and if Sanders is allowed to control the Democratic Party I will, with a heavy heart, leave the Democratic Party.

    Sanders spoke of pie in the sky. He had no plan to pay for his preposterous dreams. The young gravitated to his illusions and when they realize that they will not come true, they, too, will leave the Democratic Party.

    By giving Sanders a forum, a podium, and access to databases, the Democratic Party brought about its own demise in the minds of many loyal Democrats. This is painful for me, and for many Democrats. I have left the Iowa Democratic Party for its support of Sanders. Such a pity, but I will never ever vote for Sanders or any of his supporters.

    This is not what you want, and probably will not publish, but all Democrats are not behind Sanders. He was and is an “independent” Socialist. I am not.

    1. Yeah, this is one of the dumbest things I’ve read. Hillary Clinton won. She will be leading the party. The Iowa Democratic Party didn’t support Sanders. And honestly, if you’re this upset when your candidate wins, I probably don’t want you in my party anyway.

    2. There is ample evidence that “yellow dog” Democrats are responsible for ruining the party. From backing wishy washy also-rans like Kerry (particularly egregious when Clark was available) to failing to develop younger party members to manipulating the system during primaries. The leaders of the Democratic party don’t lead, they maintain their position for fear of losing the perks that come with it. I am also a lifelong Democrat, and the party left me behind two decades ago. I won’t pretend it still represents the ideals my New Deal Dem Grandfather instilled in me. I’m here to fix that. In a two-party system where one party is right to far right we cannot have their opposition take a center-right position. The left has finally woken up to realize no one is going to fix things if we don’t do it ourselves. If that makes some NARDS (Not A Real Democrat) uncomfortable, then follow down with the path you’re on and join the Republicans.

      PS: By traditional political standards Bernie is center to center-left on most issues. Go along to get along Democrats like yourself have stood by letting “conservative” operatives shift the dialogue so far to the right that Eisenhower and Dole would be considered leftists. Stop fuming and thank us for having the chutzpah you are yours couldn’t muster.)

  2. Bernie is one great guy. Always working for the people to have a greater chance. He has it right. Push for great ideas. Most of the ideas he has have been tried here in the U.S. and worked until big biz lobbied to remove them.

  3. When will people start paying attention? The State Department report on the Hillary’s emails showed she’d lied about them (others had NOT done what she did). Now the AP finds her official schedule as Secretary of State did not match the actual one. What happens when the FBI investigation is completed? President Obama says his worst mistake was the Libya fiasco she pushed (and bragged about). How can so many ignore so much?

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